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You don’t get to be my trigger.

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Hello All!  I’m Ginger Rae, a dear friend of Pepper’s and Paprika’s.  I’m guest blogging about a recent experience that I felt was not only a great example of what women should look for in an abusive relationship, but also as encouragement that you can walk away from abusers.  First of all, let me start by providing a little self-history.  I’m a mid twenties college student studying Child Psychology.  I am  not a fantastic writer like Pepper or Paprika.  As a matter of fact, this post will most likely contain grammatical errors like nobody’s business, but hey.  My apologies in advance.

My boyfriend proposed to me after dating for 3 years.  I was madly in love with him and I couldn’t wait to get married.  While planning our wedding, our life derailed.  He found new friends that negatively influenced him.  He was fired from his steady job and found cocaine to help him pass his time.  Our life went from heaven to hell very quickly.  Realizing his problem with substance abuse and drug addiction, I tried everything to help him.  I tried family and friends, support groups, mentors…everyone.  He spiraled out of control, stealing money from my account and from his family to buy cocaine.  I remember one particular moment…mid-January in South Dakota and the propane heater was running on fumes from the empty propane tank.  I called to order a truck delivery for the house and that’s when I realized he had emptied out both of our accounts, leaving us with out heat and hot water in the middle of winter.  Enough was engouh.  I began to fight back against his addiction.   The harder I pushed for rehab, the harder he pushed me.

The relationship turned physical and I often found myself on the kitchen floor being punched in the face.  I’d cry from the encounter and so would he.  As I sat on the kitchen floor, holding my wounded face, he’d calm himself and kneel down beside me to hold me and tell me how sorry he was; how it would never happen again; how it was his addiction and not him.  He gave every excuse in the book…but the excuse he gave the most:  “If only you had done what I had said…”  It never failed…it was always my fault.  If I had only done the laundry.  If I had only cleaned the dishes.  If I had only fulfilled the duties of a good ‘wife.’  If I had only given him more money.  If only.  As an abuser, he worked to break me down.  He challenged himself to find new ways to scar me emotionally and mentally.  And then…then!…when I was at my lowest point, depressed and lost, he’d be there.  He’d hold me while I cried, wipe my tears, kiss my cheek, and tell me it was all going to be ‘OKAY’ because he was going to help me be better and shed my disgusting skin. It was an ugly cycle.  He’d beat me down, both literally and figuratively, then he’d be there to pick me up and pull me up by my bootstraps.  All too often, women are victims of this cycle.

People always say, “Why didn’t you just leave!?  Why didn’t you just get out!?”  No-no-no-no-no.  You don’t get to ask that.  It’s not that simple.  I used to be the one asking those questions, and now, I know the answers.  When this cycle began, it seemed to have appeared outta nowhere!  Ya, his sketch friends were iffy.  Ya, he was spending more and more time either drunk or high.  But those two factors were gradual.  It seemed like I woke up one morning and his fist was bouncing off my face.  The anger. The aggression.  The rage.  The furry.  All appeared from nowhere.  The first punch shocked me more than it hurt.  It was like a giant “WTF was that!” I didn’t even have time to think about what had happened, why, or if it would happen again.  There was no time for contemplation,  self-assessment, or understanding.  Life stops and existing begins.  It’s feels like your body is going through the motions of life but your mind is floating somewhere above your body, unable to comprehend the psychological abuse, the physical pain, the breaking down and building up, and primarily, the fact that you know everything that’s happening is so very very wrong.  This ‘floating’ phase can last years.  Mine did.  I don’t remember much about that time.  It’s all just a haze of me thinking I was worthless, being hit over and over again, and him telling me “he’d fix me.”

I finally broke through the fog when friends began to ask questions about my secret life.  There were only a few friends I ever let in.  Pepper was one of them.  But it wasn’t until another friend (we’ll call her Debbie), physically burst through my front door, packed my bags, and dragged me out of my house with me kicking and crying the whole way.  Even with all the abuse, I still didn’t want to leave.  Looking back, I think I wanted to stay because I was isolated and scared.  It was heart-wrenching when Debbie pulled me free of that dungeon.  Yet that moment, I realized I had two choices…to go back and continue ‘floating,’ or reclaim my mind and my body as my own and run from the hell I called home.  So, I say to you, women suffering from abuse, you can make that choice.  As scary and as isolating as it may seem, you have the choice to stop floating, return to earth, and reclaim yourself.  Nothing you have ever EVER done deserves abuse, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.  You are strong, intelligent, beautiful and empowering.

However, if this story sounds familiar and you’re still making excuses, like I was, listen to this.

I left that relationship a few years ago and I had spent time with a therapist recovering from all the abuse.  Some time after that relationship ended, I began dating again.  I’ve just recently became single (from a different non-abusive relationship) but I am certainly not interested in being in any kind of a committment. I want to take a year or two and just have fun, fuck around, and be me.  There are still triggers that remind me of those terrible days and one such trigger shot me in the face just weeks ago.   Recently, a ‘friend’ and I crossed the friendship line and entered into friends-with-benefits.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this…as long as both parties agree on the terms of the friendship and the benefits.  Welp….this ‘friend,’  we’ll call him Alan for the sake of the blog and privacy and such, soon became sticky and wanted more than a friendship. I do not want anything more than friendships and fuck buddies.  When I tried to explain to him that we could no longer have our friendship nor our benefits, he lost it.  His text messages served as that trigger.  He’s a text from our conversation:

—I had planned to meet with him after I finished classes for the day, but…

Alan: So, are you coming over after class?

Me: No, I have homework.  Sorry. I’m really busy.

Alan: Relationships work both ways, ya know.

Me: What? What are you talking about?

Alan: Forget it.  Sorry I bugged you.  It’s just I like you.  Sorry.  I’ll leave you alone…have a good summer.

Me: (I suspect he wanted me to chase him, but no…I don’t play stupid petty games like that.) I had planned on it but plans change.  Things came up.  I don’t want you to like me.  That’s a problem.

Alan: Ok Forget it.  You told me you like me.  Great.  Now you can’t even be friends.  Why can’t I like you?

Me: (No. I never told him I like him.  He proceeded to call me multiple times.) Sorry but I’m not going to answer your call.  I just don’t think it’s a good idea to hang out.  You like me and I just don’t want that.  I’ve made that clear.

Alan: Are you serious? We can just be friends.  What did I do? I fucked you like you wanted and now you can’t even hang out! It was that bad huh? I want to be friends at least.  How can you do this? What did I do? (And his aggression begins)

Me: You got sticky.  That’s what happened.  I want a friend w/benefits…not someone ‘clingy.’

Alan: Why are you being like this? How am I clinging? I just want to hang out is all.  I have given you space.  When did I get clingy? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.

Me: Please, stop apologizing.  It’s annoying.  I have work to do.  Have a good one.

Alan: Bye then…..(minutes later) You’re pretty mean.  When all I have done is be nice.  Good luck with summer classes and finishing school.  I guess sex was our last goodbye.

Me: (notice how the guilt trip starts) Lol…I’m not mean.  I just know what I want.  Hanging out is not what I want, but you can’t accept that.  I don’t want to hang out bc you like me and are taking things farther than what we agreed on.  So no, this is not me being mean.  This is me knowing myself and knowing when I’m vulnerable and knowing when to step back before I get in too deep and can’t get out.  So no…not mean.  Smart.

Alan:  I can’t believe you.

Me:  That’s unfortunate.

Alan: Dumb down. I still want to see you.  Why would you treat someone like this.  I thought we were friends.  Fine. Bye.

Me:  Dumb down? There’s nothing complex with what I said.  I’m busy today.  You’re insecurities are getting the best of you.

Alan:  Fine.  That’s not how you said it though.  Sorry.  I like you.  Friends is good.  Have a good one.  Fuck it.

Me: I can’t make you understand, but you should try. (Just a note…I never objected to being a friend to this guy.  In fact, we used to be friends.  Yet, I just got out of a long relationship (post-abusive relationship) and the last thing I wanted was a boyfriend.  But he couldn’t take that.)

Alan: I do (understand) and it sucks.  I still want to hang out even though you’re acting like a bitch.

Me: lol and why should I want to hang out after you call me a bitch?  Just because I know what I want and it’s not you, you call me a bitch?  Sorry, you don’t get that privilege.  I’m not being mean nor a bitch.  I’m making choices for myself and not for you.  Sorry you ‘like’ me…but I have a feeling your opinion will change after today.  I have priorities and you’re not one.  Ya, that’s harsh, but I’ve tried to be subtle and you didn’t get it.  I don’t have time for this today.  Seriously.  I have work to do.  I’m not going to text you back.  You’ll be fine.

Alan:  But baby! I didn’t mean it like that.  I just don’t know how I’ve been clingy.  I have given you space.  I’m not sure what you don’t like about me but can’t we just hang out?

—I never replied.  So there it was, the full and complete cycle, laid out like bacon in a frying pan.  The guilt trip, the name calling,  the apologizing, the ‘baby!.’  Most importantly, he refused to accept my decision and pressed the issue beyond annoyance.  This triggered all the memories I had with my abusive ex and in fact lead to nightmares regarding the past.

You do not have to tolerate men that don’t understand the meaning of ‘no.’  You do not have to tolerate a man who chooses to go against what you wish to satisfy himself.  You do not have to stay in that cycle.